On Branding: Why Building A Brand Requires Follow-Up Effort: Create Growth Plan

Building a brand in the marketplace is the necessary foundation for long term success in the financial services marketplace. But a brand can't do the job alone. You need to capitalize on your brand by developing an ongoing, detailed plan for growth.

The ability to meet the growth challenge will drive the future of the credit union industry. Technology is rapidly changing the way people choose and use financial services. The old credit union strength of service at the teller window will not make credit unions competitive in the new environment.

Credit unions were created to service captive audiences-"SEG groups." Getting members wasn't an issue-serving members was the mission. Today's credit unions maintain this strong commitment to service, yet many are ill prepared to "sell" more services to existing members, and to find new members.

Yet credit unions do have the tools needed to be very competitive. Great rates, low and no fees, and a focus on member service over profitability create compelling growth opportunities-if people find out about them!

Following are ten crucial steps toward growth:

Start with your current members-they offer the best potential for fast results. How can you become their primary financial institution?

Set a course and be disciplined in implementing growth plans. Growth must be the focus every day. Never underestimate the power of strong leadership!

Work toward specific goals and report progress weekly to keep all credit union employees involved and focused.

Study the competition and know your competitive advantages. Make sure to clearly convey your advantages to members-don't expect them to know your rate is the best in the market unless you tell them.

Use every member touch point to promote your selected growth messages: message on hold, web page, inserts, newsletters, branch POP, etc.

Set a specific total growth goal. Then outline the different sources for achieving growth with specific sub-goals for each source. Track each source, and communicate progress to credit union employees weekly.

Every month have a special event or activity if the overall goal (or a selected sub-goal) is met.

There is no magic bullet for growth. It happens when you take specific steps-every day-to make it happen. If you lose focus for a week, it will take three weeks to get back on track. Stay disciplined!

Identify your core values; keep your core values intact and don't lose sight of your core membership. Make sure reaching for growth doesn't damage your relationship with your core membership.

Select one to three key products to help drive growth. One of these products must always be a deposit product, particularly checking. Credit union's must grow the deposit part of the balance sheet. Focusing on market share instead of loan to share will help your overall marketing mindset!

Hire the right people and give them the right training. Then monitor member service people and coach them to make sure they are constantly reinforcing the credit union's marketing messages.

Keep focused, keep disciplined, and keep growing your brand values!

Paul Lucas is a marketing and branding consultant specializing in credit unions. For info: www.pauljlucas.com.